Argentina general manager Jorge Burruchaga believes Barcelona icon Lionel Messi will return to the national team, despite not being named in any squads since the disappointment of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Messi scored one goal in Argentina's four matches before they bowed out to eventual winners France in the round of 16. He's yet to return to the fold, but Burruchaga told Goal's Naim Beneddra a comeback is inevitable:
"No date is scheduled right now for the return of Messi, and he will not be back before the end of the year.
"But it's impossible that he will not be in the national team again. This is transitory.
"I'm sure that next year, he will be in the Argentine national team again."
Messi will not feature in La Albiceleste's upcoming back-to-back friendlies against Mexico after he was omitted from interim coach Lionel Scaloni's squad for the third announcement in a row.
Burruchaga is famous for scoring the 83rd-minute winner in Argentina's 3-2 victory over West Germany in the 1986 FIFA World Cup final.
The 4-3 defeat to France in June was Messi's 128th cap for his country, having debuted in 2005 at 18 years of age. In 13 years of service, he's averaged a little less than 10 international appearances per year, which isn't bad going for one who plays to his level so consistently.
But it's likely the mental toll that's worn the 31-year-old most. He briefly retired from national-team service in the summer of 2016, having at the time just lost a third major international final in a row at that year's Copa America.
Author Andy West spoke about the maestro's sense of responsibility and how it can actually work against him in his new book, Lionel Messi and the Art of Living:
In the absence of Messi—Argentina's all-time record scorer with 65 goals—Scaloni has refreshed the squad with some new faces and a generally younger feel. Thirteen of his 27-man squad are 25 or under, while only three players are 30 or over (two of whom are goalkeepers).
It's seldom a question of quality in regards to Messi and his international involvement, considering he continues to demonstrate top form in La Liga. Such as in the recent 4-3 defeat to Real Betis, where he scored twice and crafted another goal in his return from injury:
Argentina legend Diego Maradona also rallied behind Messi returning to the national team in future. When asked by Marca's Juan Castro if he thought La Albiceleste's most treasured star would return, he said: "I think so. We will see because if not then we are in trouble as we haven't anyone that can hit a wall."
Messi's greatest exploits have all come at club level for the Blaugrana, and the veteran is closing in on a remarkable one-club record, which is further motivation for him to perhaps shun international loyalties:
Messi has played under nine Argentina managers since earning his debut under Jose Pekerman 13 years ago.
The national team have gone unbeaten in three of their four matches since his post-World Cup hiatus began, but Burruchaga is sure to be one of many hoping 2019 will bring about his return to the Argentina fold.